Wellness Centre

There are numerous benefits of regular activity & exercise.


Exercising for Health and Wellness

There are numerous types of activity and exercise; walking, cycling, swimming, going to the gym and dancing to name but a few. The common thing is that these activities stimulate complicated processes within our bodies that positively affect nearly every organ and system. A recent Sport England study concluded that, in the main, the more active a person is the more satisfied they are with their life!

When you exercise several times a week or more your body adapts so you’re then able to do so more efficiently. It starts to get easier, we begin to push ourselves even further and we enjoy achieving more and more of the goals we set ourselves. We also begin to experience a huge range of health and wellness benefits, six of which we’ve outlined below.

1. Improved mood and mental wellbeing:  Feelings of depression, anxiety and stress can be alleviated by a regular exercise routine, possibly because the brain becomes more sensitive to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine. Exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain. Regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain and helps brain health and memory. Among the aging population it has shown to help protect mental function and combat Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

2. Control of body weight and fat: To burn fat there is only one golden rule; we must burn a greater number of calories than we consume through our diet. When teamed with a sensible nutrition plan, exercise tips this balance of ‘in versus out’ in our favour, therefore reducing unhealthy excess body fat. Studies have shown that combining aerobic exercise with resistance training can maximise fat loss and muscle mass, which is essential for keeping the bad weight off. Body fat percentage is one of the most accurate predictors of life expectancy and is probably more important than body mass index. That's because on the BMI scale even some elite athletes can be classed as obese, yet they're in a state of optimal health.  

3. Strengthened muscles and bones: Exercising stimulates the body to release hormones that promote the ability of your muscles to absorb amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins – the essential macronutrient required for muscle recovery, health and growth. As we exercise we gain strength, which is great as muscular strength is in the top 5 predictors of life expectancy. 

4. Increased energy: It is an odd thought to think that burning energy will actually make more available to you, but it is true. When you exercise the mitochondria in your cells convert sugar into energy. The more you do this, the more efficient your body becomes at this process and the more energy you are able to produce upon demand. Overall your level of fitness increases and you feel able to do more, which is great! 

5. Reduced risk of disease: A study by the American Physiological Society shows that a lack of regular physical activity is a primary cause of chronic disease. Regular exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular fitness and body composition, whilst decreasing blood pressure and blood fat levels at the same time. In contrast, a lack of regular exercise, even in the short term, can lead to significant increases in truncal fat storage, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and early death. 

6. Relaxation and improved quality of sleep: The energy depletion that occurs during exercise stimulates recuperative processes during sleep. One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can improve sleep quality by as much as 65%. When we sleep better we feel better and less stressed too – check out our article on sleep to find out more.

Categorising exercise: 

Your age, ability, experience or health status may dictate what intensity to perform your exercise on a regular basis, or how you will start becoming more active. It doesn’t take most people too long to move through the ranks of intensity, as exercise is a rewarding regular activity. Examples of different intensities are:

Activity: Low to moderate intensity. Just moving, not being idle – walking the dog, taking the stairs, gardening and housework. 

Exercise: Semi-intense to intense in effort. Structured and regular bouts of physical activity with the aim to improve health and wellness – gym, yoga, pilates and cycling to name a few.

Training: Intense, focussed and specific physical activity to get you to your goal as quickly as possible. Preparation for competition. 

Resistance Exercise

Resistance training involves placing load through the musculoskeletal system, typically by lifting free weights and using weight machines. The benefits are plentiful and apply to almost everyone. Resistance exercise reduces the risk of all-cause mortality and is particularly valuable for the aging population by limiting conditions such as osteoporosis. 

Females are often discouraged by resistance training as they fear they may ‘bulk up’ and gain weight. This is a common misconception as to increase muscle mass you need large amounts of testosterone which females simply do not have; the typical values for females and males are 0.8 and 8 respectively. Resistance exercise therefore leads to muscle toning and weight loss in females, as this type of exercise massively increases the metablic rate and burns lots of calories!

Cardio-Vascular exercise

Typically known as ‘cardio’ examples include running, cycling, the cross-trainer and swimming. It works the cardiac (heart), vascular (circulation) and aerobic (lungs) systems. Studies have shown that short repeated bursts of intense cardio-vascular exercise are far more beneficial than long, steady state exercise. An example when cycling would be alternating 30 seconds of maximum output with 2 minutes of slow coasting, repeated for 20 minutes. The same could be replicated when running, using the cross trainer, or the rowing machine. This way of exercising has far more health benefits than maintaining a steady pace for as much as triple the total time due to the huge impact it has on metablic rate. 

How often, when and where?

Once is good, twice is better, three times is better still!... Only when nutrition, recovery and sleep are sub-standard will you ever be exercising ‘too much’. Take a look at our article on sleep to learn why it’s better to exercise in the morning. 

It’s good to mix up the types of exercise you perform, but its important to have an exercise plan that you stick to for a period of time so that you can be consistent and measure your progress. Make use of the great outdoors too, as fresh air and scenery is known to be good for our mental health; balancing a regular run or walk outdoors with a few sessions in the gym is a great way of keeping your regular routine fresh and varied.